Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people over 75 suffer from some form of hearing loss. But research demonstrates that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely avoidable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is around 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to occur in under 4 minutes.
It may seem like everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates a number of challenges. Younger individuals, however, face added problems regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face a really difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become particularly hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles due to hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t regulate everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And you need to get a hearing exam for your child if you think they may already be suffering from hearing loss.